Adult Vaccination FAQ's


(Source: Adapted from CDC MMWR, January 2010)

Are there vaccines that protect adults against communicable diseases?

Yes! Vaccinations are available and recommended to protect adults from many infections, including influenza (flu), pneumococcal disease, herpes zoster (shingles), human papillomavirus (HPV), pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Vaccinations against some less common diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria, and varicella (chickenpox) are also needed by some adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations clearly identify people who are at risk and who should be immunized to prevent these diseases and their complications. Consult your healthcare provider or the local health department about your own immunization status as well as current immunization recommendations.

Why immunize?

There is no cure for some of these illnesses and all may cause tremendous health problems, disability, and even death. Vaccines are one of the safest medical products available. Vaccines are effective and can prevent the suffering and costs associated with these preventable diseases.

Which vaccinations do adults need?

All adults need tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster vaccines at 10-year intervals throughout their lives. One of the booster vaccines should be Tdap, which includes protection against pertussis, the infection that causes whooping cough. The US has been experiencing whooping cough outbreaks and infants have died from it in recent years.

Adults born after 1956 who are not immune to any one of the following: measles, mumps, or rubella, should get the MMR vaccine.

Women age 26 years and younger and men age 21 and younger should be immunized against HPV, a virus that causes many cancers, including cervical, anal, penile, oral, and throat cancer.

All adults age 65 years or older, as well as adults age 19 to 64 years who smoke or have diabetes or chronic heart, lung, liver, or kidney disorders, need protection against pneumococcal disease and should consult their healthcare providers regarding this vaccine.

Influenza vaccination is recommended annually for all adults.

Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all adults 19 to 59 with diabetes. It is also recommended for any sexually active adult who is not in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship; people whose sex partners are infected with hepatitis B; individuals seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease; men who have sex with men; people who share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; people who have close household contact with someone infected with hepatitis B; healthcare and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job; people with end-stage kidney disease; residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons; travelers to areas with moderate or high rates of hepatitis B infection; people with liver disease; and people with HIV infection.

Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for travelers to countries where hepatitis A is common; people with chronic liver disease; people who have blood clotting-factor disorders such as hemophilia; men who have sex with men; and users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs. Hepatitis A vaccine can also be given to anyone who wants to be immune from infection.

The chickenpox vaccine is recommended for all adults who have not had chickenpox or the vaccine previously.

Meningococcal vaccination is recommended for adults not previously immunized with the meningococcal conjugate vaccine who do not have a functioning spleen, who have terminal complement deficiencies, who will be first-year college students, are military recruits or certain laboratory workers, or who will be traveling to or living in countries where meningococcal disease is common.

Adults age 60 years and older should receive a single dose of shingles vaccine whether or not they report a prior episode of shingles. Individuals with chronic medical conditions may be vaccinated unless a contraindication or precaution exists for their condition.